Easterns 2024: Tournament Recap (Men’s Div.)

Georgia win their second major tournament of the season

Georgia's Scott Whitley throws a flick during the 2024 D-I men's ultimate frisbee tournament Easterns final. Photo: Brian Whittier
Georgia’s Scott Whitley throws a flick during the 2024 Easterns final. Photo: Brian Whittier

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At the end of a grueling weekend featuring many of the best teams in the division, Georgia outlasted UMass to take home top honors at Easterns. Cal Poly SLO and Pittsburgh also impressed on the weekend, making it to the semifinal round. Elsewhere, bid-bubble teams like Minnesota, Penn State, and NC State did what they needed to do to secure their regions strength bids to Nationals.

Jojah Jubilant with Undefeated Weekend

For the third time this season #3 Georgia Jojah and #1 Massachusetts Zoodisc met in the bracket on Sunday. Last time these two colossal programs met, just a few weeks ago at Smoky Mountain Invite, it was Zoodisc who came away with the win. After how easily they won their semifinal, the smart money seemed to be on a well-rested Zoodisc to best Georgia once again.

“UMass is obviously a really solid team,” Georgia player Jack Stephenson said. “But the times we’ve lost to UMass I feel like there were a lot of things that we left on the table and a lot of mistakes that we made, so we know that we are a team that can play against any team in the country this year. We have a lot of confidence, so that helped us go in with an energetic mindset.”

Jojah wouldn’t leave anything on the table this time around; they ate and left no crumbs in the final of Easterns this weekend, closing out the final with a 15-11 victory.

The final began with both teams trading holds back and forth, unsurprising knowing the consistency and firepower that these teams have on offense. The first block of the game came by way of Jojah’s Drew Wentworth, poaching off the front of the stack to deny an inside shot by Caelan McSweeney. Jojah would default into the red zone set that helped them to break time and time again throughout the weekend. Scotty Whitley – who’s been on a heater all season – found an unguarded Carter Neuman on the front cone for the break. It was after that that the game quickly became a stage for two of the greatest O-lines in the country. Perfectly weighted deep shots, endlessly patient red zone sets, even two goalty-like scoobers from Aidan Downey, both teams reached deep into their bags to continue to hold.

When it was all knotted at 6-6, UMass would have their chance to earn that early break back after Adam Miller’s around throw was slightly shoved down by a zephyr of wind. With only 15 yards to go, the break was within reach. Literally. Sam Green had it in his hands but bobbled the disc out of his grasp. Jojah wasted no time moving the disc away from their end zone. Jake Powell took the first deep shot he saw, hucking the full field to Stephenson who made a miraculous layout grab to save possession and give his team the disc on the goal line. Stephenson, who began cramping halfway through his deep cut, battled through the pain down the field, visibly limp-running the last few steps into a layout grab on the way to a hold that would allow Jojah to safely make it to half without being broken.

 

“Part of what kept me going was that I had run 40 yards already, I absolutely had to catch it at that point,” said Stephenson. “The other part of it is the guys that are playing alongside and behind me. This team is a team that inspires fighting for each other all the way through the end, so yes I was cramping really badly but we needed that hold and it was huge for the team so I’ll do whatever it takes.” Jojah and Zoodisc would both hold all the way into half, with Jojah up 8-7 at the break.

With neither team really able to make a difference defensively, Georgia once again reached into their bag of tricks to blow the game open. On UMass’ next hold attempt after McSweeney tossed a set-play huck to a wide open Ethan Lieman, Georgia devised a way to earn a critical block. “All the credit goes to the man with the plan, [Jojah coach] Samuel Batson,” Downey said. “He came up to me at half time and asked if I thought a snake in the grass would work, I said, ‘not really but hey lets try it anyway.’ I just waited by the sideline, Batson said, ‘Go, Go, Go!’ So I went and it was hype.”

Already primed to look deep, McSweeney saw what he must have thought was a broken coverage with Griffin Yas all alone streaking towards the end zone. Little did he know

Downey was waiting across the field, seemingly talking innocently to Batson. Once the throw went up, Downey raced over and swatted the huck away. Two more moments of dominance from Downey sealed the point and all but clinched the game. He skied a crashing pile to catch a high pass that got snatched by the wind and came down with a post-up sky in the end zone that had his defender tapping his own head in acknowledgement that he simply got skied.

 

Georgia was not just content to ride out the string despite their three-goal cushion. They continued to bring defensive pressure and hounded UMass’s tired O-line every chance they got. “There’s a different level of buy-in this year,” Downey said. “A different level of preparation for everyone. I also think we take every game seriously this season. We’re thinking about the algo, we’re thinking about our ranking at Nationals.”

Jojah would tack on an additional break before closing out the game. Their foul goal win should be enough to earn them the top seed at Nationals and the schedule perks that come with that spot. After winning their second major tournament of the regular season, there is no question opponents will treat Georgia like top dogs come Nationals.

All Love in Amherst

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  1. Matt Fazzalaro
    Matt Fazzalaro

    Matt began playing ultimate in 2017 at Lambert High school in Forsyth County, Georgia. In his college career he played one year with the Samford Dogma and three years with the Georgia Jojah. Matt cites the Athens, GA ultimate community as the best he has ever experienced and also fell in love with goalty there. Matt now lives, works, and plays ultimate in Atlanta, GA.

  2. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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